Neon green bikes soon might be found all over Golden Valley, expected to become the first city in the state to adopt dockless bike sharing ahead of similar plans previously announced by Minneapolis.
Officials with the west metro suburb plan to sign an agreement March 20 with LimeBike, a Bay Area-based bike-share company. Once that happens, 500 dockless bikes could be deployed in the city in April.
“Our goal is to be the first,” Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris said. “LimeBike was at the right place at the right time.”
Golden Valley would be one of the first cities in the Midwest to try dockless biking, a system expected over time to become the standard model for bike-share companies. The bike sharing model most familiar now in the metro area is that of Nice Ride Minnesota, which has its bikes parked at stations — docked — throughout the Twin Cities.
Officials with other west metro suburbs have discussed adopting their dockless network, said Gabriel Scheer, LimeBike’s director of strategic development. Edina reportedly has shown interest in the partnership, and St. Louis Park is considering the option.
“The Twin Cities are a very attractive place for bike sharing,” said Scheer. He characterized Golden Valley as an “awesome partner” whose leaders are excited about dockless bike sharing.
After LimeBike presented a pilot program for dockless bikes last month, the City Council expressed unanimous support, Harris said.
“We’re becoming more of a sharing economy and the dockless bike option … is almost like another tool in the toolbox,” he said.
The program would last through the end of the year at no cost to the city. City staffers are expected to study how often the bikes are used and where they’re dropped off.
Nice Ride is expected to launch its own dockless bikes in Minneapolis this summer, pending approval from local and federal funding sources and the University of Minnesota. It will use New York-based Motivate International Inc., one of the largest bike-share firms in the country, rather than LimeBike, the other finalist it considered.
St. Paul will issue a request for proposals for a dockless system in coming weeks, according to Public Works spokeswoman Lisa Hiebert.
LimeBike was founded in early 2017 and has quickly expanded into more than 30 U.S. cities, two European cities and more than a dozen university campuses. Riders use a smartphone app to locate, unlock and pay for a bike; once the trip is over, they can lock it at a bike rack in a visible public area. “Dockless bike shares only work if we all take responsibility and park in places that don’t block car traffic, impede pedestrian access, or encroach on private property,” according to the LimeBike website.
Rides on pedal bikes will cost $1 for every half-hour, with discounts available for students and lower-income residents. Scheer said he expects several bike varieties will be available in Golden Valley, including three-speed and pricier electric-assist bikes.
LimeBike is currently hiring workers to oversee the Golden Valley program, Scheer said. Their job would be to maintain the bikes and keep track of where they are.
“If a bike winds up in a pond or lake, it’s the company’s responsibility to go and get it,” Harris said.
LimeBike employees could “geofence” areas of Golden Valley where bikes aren’t picked up, informing riders through the app that they can’t park in a certain area. If bikes are dropped off elsewhere, LimeBike workers could spot them and retrieve them.
City officials hope the bikes are used for all sorts of transportation within the city. Honeywell and General Mills employees might ride them around their campuses, for example, and residents could take them on local trails.
Marc Nevinski, the city’s physical development director, said the bikes could also be used by commuters taking the proposed Southwest light-rail line to go all the way home.
“Is this the magic bullet that solves all the problems?” Nevinski asked. “I don’t think it is, but it’s one way that some of those last-mile challenges could be overcome.”
The trial period, Nevinski said, will allow the city to grapple with some of the challenges posed by dockless bikes.
“We’re excited to try it and to learn from it,” he said. “There’s definitely an interest and some demand out there, and we want to see just how exactly this fits into our community.”